June 29, 2016

Very First Writing Wednesday

I am very excited to be joining Lit with Lyns for her very first ever Writing Wednesday linky party! Writing is something that is near and dear to my heart in my ELA classrooms. Perhaps it's because although I was a very good writer throughout my own schooling, I was frustrated because I did not know what made me a good writer. I was never taught to write just directed to write and then graded on it. Thank goodness I was an avid reader, an enjoyable pastime that unknowingly gave me a writing foundation.

Because of my frustration, I am careful to TEACH my students HOW TO write, providing explicit instruction, repeated practice and support, and practical applications. With middle school students there is a shift to more nonfiction/technical writing than in previous years. Much of it is focused on extended response and providing text evidence.

PQA is the first writing lesson that I cover with my incoming fifth grade Language Arts students and review with my returning sixth and seventh grade students. PQA or Put the Question in the Answer is an acronym to help my students remember how to phrase answers to questions. I am very particular with student responses at this level. It is no longer sufficient to just give an answer that is only a few words. I expect them to be able to elaborate, cite text evidence, and write in standard English for nearly every answer. PQA is the first step in helping them achieve this expectation.

All of my classes utilize an interactive notebook for Language Arts. The very first foldable to be inserted is for PQA. An anchor chart is displayed on the board and mini charts sit on the tables to saturate my students with this important strategy. You can read more about this in a previous post and download a PQA notebook foldable for use in your own classroom. Here's a sneak peak at this year's anchor chart displayed in my new "Scrabble" theme. This will appear on all the tables in my classroom displayed in small stand-up frames that I purchased from IKEA (see previous blog post linked above).

After instruction, and loads of practice, my students generally remember to address their responses in this manner, at least while they are with me. However, my students see many teachers throughout the day, and for whatever reason, when they leave my class to go to another (Social Studies, Math, Science, etc.) they often "forget" to implement strategies taught in my class in another. Grrr! You have probably felt this pain a time or two yourself. I don't necessarily want to impose on the content area teachers to "reteach" my lessons nor to display my anchor charts for student reminders, but I do want my kiddos to carry this skill over into everything that they do. So, I came up with a solution: pencil topper mini-anchor charts. My students can carry these friendly reminders with them to other classrooms and hopefully be reminded to PQA away from me.

I created these toppers for many of the major skills and strategies that I teach in my Language Arts classes. The complete file will soon be available in my TpT Store, but until then I'm sharing the PQA topper as a forever freebie for you.

Here is what the PQA pencil topper looks like.
How does it work?

Simple and effective (I have used pencil toppers previously for various skills), just the way I like it, and I hope you do as well! Something else that I hope you like is this a-MAZE-ing little worksheet that I just created. I recently stumbled upon Hidesy's Clipart on TpT and discovered some wonderful maze graphics. I added some cute images from Educlips and a few text boxes to come up with a PQA practice sheet that doubles as an interest inventory. I'm planning on using this during the first few days of the new school year with my sixers.

To download a freebie INB foldable for PQA, click HERE.
To download the freebie PQA pencil topper, click HERE.
To download the freebie PQA practice sheet, click HERE.
To read more Writing Wednesday posts, click HERE.

June 28, 2016

Two for Tuesday: Writing Style

It's that time...Time for teachers around the bloggy world to discount some of their favorite teaching products just for today. #2forTuesday

This week I am discounting two of my favorite writing products. These two have stood the test of time with my students. I actually created the initial activities more than 30 years ago! YIKES! Back in those days everything was drawn free hand and colored with markers/crayons. As for lamination to make it last...pfft! Only if you were lucky! I remember using rolls and rolls of clear contact paper. Can you say "sticky situation"?

Today, it's a cinch to make fun engaging teaching items to use with your students, what with desktop publishing and home laminators. Just find what you want/need on TpT, download it, print it, add the finishing touches... VOILA! beautiful, professional looking products in a snap!

If you are an ELA teacher in grs. 3-7 and need a professional-looking writing product then these two packets are just for you. Fun imaginative prompts will engage your students while helping them practice and meet needed Common Core Standards.


Click on the links to read more about each activity or to download your own packet. Then be sure to visit Chalk One Up for the Teacher to discover more #2forTuesday discounted teaching products. Be sure to hurry, though, since most discounts are good only for today.

June 21, 2016

Show and Tell Tuesday June Style

I can tell that I am not in school. I had to really scrounge to come up with ideas for this month's Show and Tell. It's not that I'm not doing things or being productive, it's just that I don't keep track of things, or complete things... can you say a million projects all going at once? Anyway, here is my meager attempt at showing and telling what I've been up to.

I've been webinar-ing it away this June. Already SEVEN different ones!

Three from Jen Bengel from Out of This World Literacy, not to mention her daily LIVE Facebook video lessons.
Two from Erin Cobb from I'm Lovin' Lit.
One from Steve Kesler of Kesler Science.
One from ASCD.

There are three more planned for this coming week. I love webinars. I can sit in my pajamas, in my rocker, with my furbabies on my lap and earn continuing education hours. Can't beat it!

I visited some friends on Father's Day. We originally were going to go out for a late lunch, early dinner, but my friends decided since it was such a beautiful day to have a cook-out at the last minute. We all brought favorite dishes as a side, salad, or dessert, but I am not much of a cook or baker so my pantry is not stocked for last minute gourmet offerings. Looking at what I had on hand, I remembered something that was all the rage when I was in high school, Jello Fluff. I hadn't made it in years and don't know what triggered the memory, but I'm so glad that it did. Here is an official recipe for it, but basically all I do is dump the following in a bowl and mix away:

1 large container of Cool Whip (doesn't have to be name brand)
1 box of Jello... just the dry powder (doesn't have to be name brand)
1 small carton of cottage cheese (drained)
1 can crushed pineapple (drained)

I know, I know! That combination just sounds terrible! My niece and nephews scrunched up their faces when I told them what I was making. Ha, little do they know how delish it really is!

Depending on the flavor of gelatin that I use and what I have hanging around, I used to get creative with this refreshing salad. For instance, I used strawberry gelatin and had some berries so I chopped those up and mixed them in. My favorite from years ago was to use lime gelatin and thrown in a handful of mini-marshmallows...YUM! And if by chance I had orange gelatin I liked to substitute the pineapple with mandarin oranges. Something else that adds YUM factor to this simple dish is nuts, any kind. I LOVE the crunch.

For someone who is not much of a cook, it seems that I've been doing it a LOT lately. I recently tried a new recipe that I found on Facebook shared by The Recipe Critic. Called California Spaghetti salad it features TONS of yummy fresh vegetables and a zippy dressing!

I'm not going to say anything more about this dish other than:
Here's the original recipe.

Be sure you make it over to Forever in 5th Grade for more Show and Tell blog posts from the edu-blogging world.

June 20, 2016

Two for Tuesday on Monday

I know, I know, it's only Monday! Why am I featuring #2forTuesday today?

Tomorrow is Show and Tell Tuesday in the teaching bloggy world and I don't like to miss that linky, so I'm sharing my #2forTuesday sale items today. That means you get to save not just on Tuesday but for two days. So, what are this week's special sale items?

This is the perfect packet for practicing parts of speech in a fun and engaging way.
This bundle is already offered at a special low price.
Combine the bundle price with a 50% discount and it's like getting three mystery pictures FREE!

Need an engaging way to teach your middle schoolers about sentences and clauses? These INB foldables will do the trick for only one dollar! But hurry the price doubles on Wednesday.

Be sure to visit Chalk One Up for the Teacher to discover all of the 2 for Tuesday deals for this week or go directly to Teachers Pay Teacher and search using

June 16, 2016

Newly Revised Non-fiction Readers

Are you familiar with DK Books? No? Check out this video...

I have several of these wonderful non-fiction books about various topics: Ancient Egypt, Joan of Arc, Rocks and Minerals, Human Body, et al. Besides being attractive, the books are packed with informational text, photos, and text features that call out to students, "READ ME!" Even our Social Studies text (as old as it is), Prentice Hall's "The Ancient World", features DK material. When Stephanie, and later Elena, from PR by the Book contacted me to ask if I would like to review the newly revised DK Readers, I jumped at the chance.

Stephanie's original message contained the following...
An innovative range of early reading books, DK Readers combine a highly visual approach with nonfiction stories that children want to read. Each book is written and reviewed by literacy experts, and contains a glossary and index, making them the perfect choice for helping develop strong reading habits among kids ages 4–12.

Fifteen years ago, DK helped revolutionize the way kids learn to read, offering the first books of their kind to use real photography and nonfiction narratives. DK Readers combined the reality of photography with a strong, information-based narrative text, as well as delivering the pedagogy of the traditional reading programs. This format opened up the range of subject matter that appeals most to kids—a key component to fostering a positive “learning to read” environment.

Since 1988, DK has sold 49 million Readers and published more than 200 titles in the series. Now, after consulting with today’s leading experts in children’s literacy, DK has transformed their approach with modern subjects and enticing covers that compete for the time and attention of digital-era kids.

“DK’s new program delivers on its promise to be ‘better by design’ by providing budding readers with books on their favorite things, perfectly suited for their reading levels, all with dynamic images that rival any Google Search,” says DK Editorial Director Nancy Ellwood.

Four levels of DK Readers are aimed at different reading abilities, enabling parents and teachers to choose the books that are exactly right for each child: Level 1: Learning to read, Level 2: Beginning to read, Level 3: Beginning to read alone, and Level 4: Reading alone.
I was particularly interested in the leveled quality of these new readers. Although I teach middle school, many of my students require reading material that is adjusted below grade level. Non-fiction material that is "meaty" enough while not being to childish is often inaccessible to struggling middle school readers. I answered Stephanie's email and within a few days, two beautiful books arrived in my mail.

Just like they say, "You can't judge a book by its cover." While these covers are stunning and demand to be opened, the content inside is EVEN BETTER! Even though the genre of the text is informational, narratives are sprinkled throughout to break up the non-fiction text. The beautiful photos and illustrations make the pages pop, and the text features (bold faced, italics, captioning, etc.) alone make the text easily comprehensible for young readers. Seeing is believing, so here's a bit of a peek  inside "Spiders and Other Deadly Animals."

I am really looking forward to sharing these beautiful books with my students this coming school year.  They will be the perfect accompaniment for meeting Common Core ELA Standards for comparing/contrasting fictional and non-fictional material as well as learning about text features.

These two titles are not the only ones that have been newly revised. Be sure to stop by the DK Website to see the complete listing of available titles and to read more about these wonderful nonfiction texts.

June 14, 2016

Two for Tuesday: Brand New Items

I am so excited to join #2forTuesday this week! The two items I'm marking down today are BRAND, SPANKIN' NEW, hot off the old PC press!

If you are looking for some help with classroom management (especially in the area of homework completion), this just might be the ticket punch card for you! Newly made in my current classroom theme, these punch cards are patterned after my popular Monster Theme Cards, only there are WAY MORE styles available for you to edit!

Don't you just love task cards? They are so versatile, fun, and engaging!
This set is perfect for a literacy center and can be used with ANY fictional novel.

Be sure to visit Chalk One Up for the Teacher to discover all of the 2 for Tuesday deals for this week or go directly to Teachers Pay Teacher and search using

This #2forTuesday has ended, but if you check back next Tuesday there will be two more items marked down 50%. Meanwhile, check out my TpT store for additional BRAND, NEW items! I add several each week throughout the summer.

June 13, 2016

Impromptu Monday Made It

I really hadn't planned on joining #MondayMadeIt this week. I really hadn't made anything teachery. Heck, I really hadn't made anything! Until this morning. I am so proud of myself (and I think my mom would be, too)! So Tara@4th Grade Frolics and all the rest of you crafty bloggers, here I am for my first(and hopefully not the last) of the summer...
This past Saturday my niece and I ran up to the West Side Market in Cleveland. We try to go every few weeks... the produce is out of this world! If you live within an hour of this place it is WELL WORTH THE TRIP!

We arrived JUST as the vendors were unpacking and setting-up. There are some terrific bargains to be had for us early birds, and I'm not talking worms! One of our favorite stands had every kind of vegetable that I LOVE at such ridiculously low prices that I bought a TON of stuff, among them a bunch of beets. I LOVE, LOVE fresh beets, especially pickled, but I have NEVER made FRESH beets. That was my mother's domain. I would buy them and she would prepare them. I use canned beets when I make them. Ah well, for a dollar for the bunch, if I ruined them I couldn't feel too bad!

This morning I braved the beets... threw them in a pot of water and set them on the stove to cook while I went off and did laundry and talked on the phone. I occasionally checked on them as they simmered away filling the house with their beety smell.

About thirty minutes later, they seemed soft enough so I took them off the flame, drained the water (reserved some as an afterthought), took them out of the pot to cool, and made the pickling juice (hot water, sugar, vinegar...taste 'til just so). When the beets cooled enough to handle, I peeled and sliced them and a Vidalia onion, and placed them in a storage container. So far, everything looked just like what it looked like when my mother made pickled beets.

The final step was to pour the pickling juice over the beets and onions. I added a little of the reserved beet water (for a bit of color), mixed them up, covered the container, and placed them in the fridge to cool and set to flavor.

Alas, I could only wait 90 minutes. I have NEVER been good at being patient! Oh my, were they good! I was pretty proud of myself, and I think mom would be proud also!

Be sure to hop on over to Tara's blog to read many more #MondayMadeIt posts. You just can't BEET #MondayMadeIt for great ideas and inspiration! Sorry, I couldn't resist... LOL!

June 10, 2016

Five for Friday: The First of Summer Break

Although it is officially summer break, I still have one more "job" to complete before being truly free for summer. Our report cards weren't printed in time for our clerical day, you know that day after the last day of school, so I couldn't complete my cumulative record cards. Off to do those today, but first, it's time for a little...

FIRST... Does anyone else have a dining room that looks like this? Geez! Every year I say that I am not going to bring home work to do over the summer, and what do I do? I bring home work to do over the summer. Of course, it sits in the middle of everywhere for a week or more until I finally decide to move it to a corner. LOL!

SECOND... It has been so unseasonable in NE Ohio that I have had my furnace kick on a couple of days. Unbelievable! I was soooo cold that I just HAD to make some soup to keep me comfortable... tortellini chicken soup did the trick on Wednesday of this week.

THIRD... Then on Thursday I made this wondrous concoction that I found on Facebook. Baked in the oven, it was deliciously warm to make me feel toasty, too. This is the original Facebook link if you are interested in seeing the video that inspired this dish.

FOURTH... I am THE ONLY HOUSE ON THE STREET THAT DOES NOT HAVE A FENCE SURROUNDING ITS YARD!!! As a result every child on the street uses my yard to cut through to the next street. My yard has a worn out path from feet and bikes and my poor kitties are so upset by all the noise that I did something I swore I would never do... put up a fence! It's just a short fence, but it blocks off the pathway. Peace and quiet and no more footpath...ah!

FIFTH... I love that during summer break I have time to fool around experiment and investigate with  my computer and phone. An uber-fun little app... LiveFx... for Android phone kept me occupied this week. It lets you take photos with a ton of special effects. I actually installed the app last summer but never really bothered with it. This week I opened the app and started snapping shots of my favorite subject, Miss Daisy. The collage is put together with another app called Photo Grid. Such fun! Lovin' me some summer time!

Be sure to hop on over to Doodle Bugs for Teaching to find loads of Five for Friday posts. Five for Friday is a terrific way to keep up with all the happenings in the blogging world of education.

June 7, 2016

2 for Tuesday: Best Seller's Week

I was so hoping that this fun little summer linky would be a go again this year. I was sorry that I missed out for the first issue last week, but end of the year activities and record-keeping just got in the way. However, I am here now and plan on being here each Tuesday.

Cyndie from Chalk One Up for the Teacher is the hostess, and thanks to her we teachers can snag some real bargains on terrific teaching materials. Here are my offerings for this week's sale, the two top selling items in my TpT Store. Just click on the name of the product to read more and download. Both will be marked 50% off just for today, so don't delay!

a set of 20 task cards perfect for a literacy center,
plus bonus material to help foster a love for poetry

adorable cards to help motivate students to achieve
academically, responsibly, behaviorally

Be sure to visit Chalk One Up for the Teacher to discover all of the 2 for Tuesday deals for this week or go directly to Teachers Pay Teacher and search using

This week's 2 for Tuesday bargain has now ended. Please check back next Tuesday for more special sales on super teaching items!

June 5, 2016

The Kingdom of Oceana: Book Review, Freebie, and Giveaway

I'm not sure how it happened or why it happened, but somehow I got on a list. I suspect it was because I started blogging about middle school reading. Whatever... I am thoroughly delighted it happened! What is it, you wonder?

Every few months I receive an email from one of several children's book publicists asking if I would like to "review" a new book. Generally the email tells a little about the book and its author to allow me to make my decision. I seldom turn these invitations down and as a result have received MANY really good books, books that I normally would not have been exposed to. The Kingdom of Oceana is one such book.

The publicist's message contained this synopsis...

The Kingdom of Oceana, by Mitchell Charles, is recommended for ages 9-15.  At its core, it is a story about a sibling rivalry.

Five centuries ago, on the island now called Hawaii, there was a kingdom filled with adventure, beauty, and magic.  When 16-year-old Prince Ailani and his brother Nahoa trespass on a forbidden burial ground and uncover an ancient tiki mask, they unleash a thousand-year-old curse that threatens to destroy their tropical paradise.

Warring factions spar for control of Oceana, sparking an age-old conflict between rival sorcerers. With the help of ancestral spirit animals, a shape-shifting sidekick, and a beautiful princess, Prince Ailani must fight for his rightful place as the future king of Oceana.

... I was hooked!

And if that wasn't enough, the following book trailer sealed the deal.

The problem was that I couldn't start reading this book just yet because I had too many others already in the works. That's what happens when you teach three different sections of Middle School Language Arts.

Finally, this past weekend I could settle in to enjoy The Kingdom of Oceana, and enjoy I did! While there are numerous adventure,  mystery, and suspense books for middle school readers that are set in various settings I have yet to encounter one with this book's setting: the ANCIENT Pacific Island World of Hawaii. For me, then, The Kingdom of Oceana was a refreshing read.

The Kingdom of Oceana is a perfect book to accompany a historical study of ancient cultures of the Pacific and a terrific way to incorporate literature into the social studies curriculum, thus providing a focus for critical Common Core Standards. It is also a book to introduce middle school students to the importance of a book's setting, again a critical Common Core Standard. Filled with names, vocabulary, animals, and customs that are related to the setting the book opened my eyes to the ancient world of the Pacific peoples. I can envision middle school students fascinated by the words of the text made curious to research to learn more about this unique time and place.  To learn a little more about this book and some of the cultural information or to read an excerpt, please visit this website.

Since I enjoyed this read so much I plan on using it as the first read aloud when we return to school after summer break. It will fit perfectly with the other books I've chosen for my class to read; they are about adventure and survival in conflict with a wilderness setting. While The Kingdom of Oceana has a much different setting than the others, its theme is so similar that it will be perfect for comparing and contrasting important literary elements. To help my students focus on important literary elements and concepts while listening I created a few interactive notebook foldables to accompany this novel. I am making them available for your use as a forever freebie. Please download them HERE.

So that you can read this wonderfully refreshing novel yourself and share it with your middle school students I am offering a complimentary copy via a Rafflecopter giveaway. Simply complete the entries below for a chance to win The Kingdom of Oceana by Mitchell Charles, available for purchase at Amazon.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

June 3, 2016

June Pinterest Pick 3 Linky

There's just something special about June 3rd! Hmmm? Could it be that today is my official first day of summer break? Yes, but that's not really it! What is so special about today? Today is the day for my favorite linky... YIPPEE!

First up is a pin for a really terrific "Back to School" bulletin board! Yep, on the first day of summer break I'm already thinking of "Back to School". Crazy, right? That's a teacher for ya!

My second pin this month is for something I've struggled with: how to assess a student's STEM activity. This site looks to provide some valuable information and insight.

This month's final pin is for a book that I've been wanting to read and use with my students. The best part? EVERY STINKIN' ELA Reading Common Core Standard can be covered while doing it! Can you say, "Woot! Woot!"